Tuesday, January 24, 2012



on Ragged Kingdom by June Tabor and the Oysterband

I think of June Tabor as "that lady who sings the rather distant, mournful, depressing songs about Scotland and the sea, often without accompaniment", which range from "my favourite songs ever(*)" to "oh, get on with it, for goodness sake!" In case you were wondering, her new album, Ashore failed to get nominated for the Nautical award because while it was undoubtedly brilliant it was also a teensy weensy bit how can I possibly put this boring. But of course, she can also more than hold her own providing the lyrics while the Oysterband are rocking out like it's 1990. There is a productive incongruity between the traditional text and the  electric arrangement. Hardly any band can mess this song up: how can you fail with lines like "I'll raise a numerous army/ And through tremendous dangers go /And in spite of all the universe /I'll conquer the bonny Bunch of Roses, O". June Tabor sings it like she's going to personally cross the channel and give Young Napoleon a jolly good talking-to. This song would have been nominated for the BEST TRACK FOR PEOPLE WHO DON'T THINK THEY WOULD LIKE FOLK MUSIC award, should such an award exist. 

(*) King of Rome, Place Called England, Unicorns, A Proper Sort of Gardener, Hughie Graham, Best Patrick Spens Ever, etc

on Wayside Courtesies by Pilgrims' Way

Pilgrims' Way are the probably the most exciting new band of 2011. ("New" is here defined as "band I first heard perform in" by which definition, admittedly, Steeleye Span would count as "new" but let's not get bogged down at this stage). They're essentially traditionalists, with the touch of electricity on some songs not nearly as distinct as the jews harp (a.k.a "that thing which goes twang?") on others. Lucy Wright's vocals are forceful but sweet sounding ever-so folkie without ever drifting into nasal cliches. 

A Pilgrim's Way is also a pome by Mr Rudyard Kipling which was set to music by Mr Peter Bellamy. If you aren't careful it can go on for ever. (Jon Boden, and indeed Mr Bellamy himself, were not careful.) Pilgrims' Way (the band) give it a light, musical feel, free of trickery or fireworks; and Lucy navigates "Amorites and Erermites and general Avergees" as if she had some idea what it meant. 

It has been mentioned before that many of us in the blogsphere could be improved by a judicious application of the precepts of verse 3.

on The Works by Spiers and Boden

I have to admit to being slightly disappointed by The Works -- much as I love Spiers and Boden, I wished they could have given us an CD of new material, rather than new takes, however high quality, on material we already know pretty well. That said, any one track on the album is great, and this one is just about my favourite. The story of how Bold Sir Rylas cut an old lady in half is a great Pythonesque yarn with a sing-a-long chorus the singing along on the album is no lessor a person than Maddy Prior. (Martin Carthy contributes to Prickley Bush, but you’d hardly know.) All together now: He split her head down to the chin! You should of heard seen her kick and grin!

Pilgrims Way by a country mile. (BUT NOTE: It’s really “The People, Lord, thy People” not “The people, oh, the people.")